Weightlifting can be part of youth exercise programs

Health club membership for participants between the ages of 6 and 17 is increasing. Along with this rise comes questions of what activities these athletes should be performing, especially with respect to weight lifting.

Exercise can be classified as primarily cardiovascular or aerobic and resistance or anaerobic. Sports like running, cycling or swimming are principally aerobic and designed to increase heart and lung capacity. Weight lifting and other strength-related challenges are designed to repeatedly stretch muscles against force to increase muscle fiber size and power.

The issue of safety regarding resistive exercise involves applying excessive force to developing muscles and joints resulting in tearing and deformation.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and other organizations, resistance activities are an essential part of a balanced exercise program, but must be performed properly. Benefits such as improving bone strength, maintaining a healthy weight, establishing a healthy lifestyle and better self esteem are some of the advantages.

Chris McNally, and his wife Sheri, of Norwich, are family fitness specialists with 20 years of experience working with children. They believe all children should start with “body weight exercises” like pushups, pull-ups and squats. In younger children, these should be performed as part of a game or other entertaining activity.

“If children start with a well-supervised program, the risk of harm is minimal. The bigger risk is not challenging their bodies when they are young and missing out on the benefits of being fit,” said McNally. He believes weight lifting can begin safely in a physiologically mature child at age 11.

As in most activities, children tend to imitate their parents or other adults they admire. A balanced fitness program is definitely a family investment that will pay huge dividends.

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